Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a client with a medium-sized budget and I have a dilemma. My media agency keeps suggesting content ideas they want to make for my brand. But so does my creative agency. Are media and creative agencies becoming more and more alike?

A: Media agencies began to change a long time ago when Chris Ingram and Zenith started doing daring unilateral things - but the speed of change began to accelerate only after the Great Divorce. Up until then, media operations had been largely unbranded; they were mere departments, sharing name, reputation and premises with their creative overlords. The belief that media people represented the subordinate discipline was so deeply entrenched that it never needed to be mentioned.

So when media and creative finally spilt, it was taken for granted that the creative lot would hold on to their traditional names and premises; it was up to the lowly ones to go out into the world and find new names and offices for themselves. Some may have been miffed about this at the time - though most were quite clever enough to see it as the huge advantage it undoubtedly was.

Since then, liberated from their former fiefdoms, revelling in their shiny new identities and recognising with delighted astonishment that the dead weight of client conflict had been in part lifted from them, the media boys have had a ball.

Inevitably, much more money flows through them than through the bank accounts of their exes. Anxious to be seen more than hard-bargaining bruisers, they put their brains to work as well and hired some new ones.

Fragmentation of the media played into their hands. It might have been difficult for a media company to establish a credible reputation for the crafting of award-winning television commercials (and deeply upsetting for their holding company); but product placement? Branded content? Sponsorship? The whole digital scene? Weren't they already more knowledgeable - and less fearful - about all these dodgy upstarts than their erstwhile landlords?

So, yes - the gap is closing. But the media lot have moved a great deal more than the creative lot. And as a client, you should feel absolutely free to pick the best from wherever.

Q: I'm practically ready to launch a brand new shiny start-up. However, as partners we're all in disagreement over the name. Two of us want the names above the door, and the other two want to get down with some funky made-up moniker (which I can just see the world wincing at). How do we resolve this?

A: You resolve it by sorting out some other things first. How soon do you plan to sell? Or don't you? When you sell, do you want to be strapped into a short-service contract or a long one? Or would you ideally like to get out altogether? Which of you has the highest profile? You may not be able to agree on this last question - but if you can't all agree on all the others, and without hesitation, then your fragile craft is doomed to crash on take-off.

If you're in for a quick million or two, and don't want to risk having your own names forever associated with a sad, smouldering wreck, then by all means go for some funky made-up moniker. They're not as distinctive as they were, of course, and their cheekiness has taken on a certain wearisome predictability - but they can still add some spurious sex-appeal to a bunch of otherwise unexceptional adpersons. Don't expect it to last long, though. After a couple years, a middle-sized agency called GumDropZ will be thought no more cool and cutting edge than a middle-sized agency called Burnley, Withers, Strang and Daniels. And of the two, BWSD will be thought a good deal less flighty.

Q: I've recently taken over as the marketing director of a well-known brand and asked the agency to commission research on our campaign. The key finding is that the advertising my predecessor's predecessor's predecessor stopped nine years ago is still by far and away better than the three campaigns we've run since then. If I go back to the old campaign, will I look unoriginal?

A: You shouldn't go back to the campaign as it was nine years ago. You should brief your agency to imagine how, if they'd been allowed to, they would have kept that campaign fresh and effective for the whole of that intervening time.

So when you pick it up again, it will still be far and away better than anything you've run since; but it will look and sound as good as new. And so will you.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.